Re’eh-Tzedoka

The mitzvah of tzedako (“charity,” but more accurately “just donations”) appears twice in our parsha.  In the first instance (Deut. 15:8), the Torah says, “You shall certainly open your hand…”  (Patoach tiftach et yadecha), and in the second instance (Deut. 15:10), “You shall certainly give him…”  (Naton titen lo...).  Why does the Torah repeat the command in two different verses, albeit using different words?

One possible explanation is that the Torah is approaching the mitzvah from two different perspectives – that of the giver, and that of the receiver.  In the first verse, the Torah expresses the mitzvah from the perspective of the giver, who ordinarily goes through a mixture of feelings when he is requested to give tzedoka.  His first thought may be, “why should I give you, this is my money.”  But then he reminds himself that tzedoka is a very important mitzvah from the Torah, and he must decide how much to give.  At that point, the Torah tells him not to hesitate, to reach into his pocket and open his hands to the needy.  But, what if the same person comes back and asks again, for more money?  Then, Rashi explains on the first verse, he must give “several times.”  He need not give every time the person asks, because the mitzvah is to meet the poor person’s needs, but not to make him wealthy.

However, the second instance describes the perspective of the receiver.  From his perspective, he wants to receive as much as possible from the giver. Therefore, as Rashi says, “even one hundred times” – from the perspective of the recipient, the giver should give even even one hundred times, in order to properly respond to the recipient.

If the above explanation is acceptable, it also enables us to understand a small detail within Rashi’s commentary.  When introducing the words, “Open, you shall certainly open…,” Rashi does not mention the subsequent words (et yadecha– “your hand” – clearly referring to the giver).  However, when introducing the words, “Give, you shall certainly give…” Rashi does mention the next word, which is lo – “to him” – referring to the recipient.  This is solid evidence that, at least according to Rashi, the second verse (15:10) is from the perspective of the recipient, rather than the giver.

It remains to explain, though, why the Torah uses the unusual double formulation of “Open, you shall open…” and “Give, you shall give…”  The Rambam tells us that this formulation is called “source language” in the Torah.  That is, it refers to action taking place from the very source and essence of the person, and not merely from the limb that is enacting the mitzvah.  When the Torah says, “Open, you shall open,” it is not referring only to the hand, but to the person himself.  The same is true of the second verse, “Give, you shall give” – the reference is to the person.  In this manner, the Torah tells us to give without reservation and without making any “accounting” or striving to reason.  The mitzvah goes right to the essence of the Jew, who wants to fulfill it just because he is Jewish.  And therefore, he should not think too much about how much, or how often to give – he should just give whatever he is capable of giving without stopping to worry about it.  In this way, he is fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedako in the best possible manner.

For a longer and more detailed explanation, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 34, page 82-88

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